Women’s March draws more than 1,000 in Detroit despite controversy

Photo by Ken Coleman

More than 1,000 people braved snowy conditions and attended today Women’s March at Detroit’s Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

“This freedom that we have is not free. It was fought for. It was cried over. It was prayed for by someone for you. The cost of that freedom is this movement and your action. What will you do?” said Danielle Atkinson, founder of Mothering Justice, a Ferndale-based group advocating for family-friendly policies.

Danielle Atkinson of Mothering Justice addresses the Women’s March in Detroit, Jan. 19, 2019 | Ken Coleman

The first set of marches were held in January 2017, the day after U.S. President Donald Trump’s inauguration. They drew hundreds of thousands of people in various cities, including Washington, D.C., Lansing, San Diego and Chicago.

Men and women hoisted handmade signs and banners that focused attention on a variety of progressive policies and concerns centering on voting rights, diversity and immigrant rights.

There’s been controversy at the national level before this year’s event. There have been serious questions about the New York-based Women’s March Inc.’s finances.

And attorney Teresa Shook, a movement founder, accused main leaders of the group of anti-Semitism, particularly for their ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan: Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez.

Sarsour, a Palestinian-American, is a vocal critic of Israeli policy and has spoken at a rally alongside Farrakhan. Mallory, who is African-American, has been criticized for calling Farrakhan “the GOAT,” a popular acronym meaning “Greatest of all time.”

The Democratic National Committee withdrew its sponsorship of the event as a result.

Women’s March in Detroit, Jan. 19, 2019 | Ken Coleman

But the controversy wasn’t mentioned at all at the three-hour event in Detroit.

Several Michigan leaders attended:U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Lansing); Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson; U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Detroit); U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield); U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn); U.S. Rep. Andy Levin (D-Bloomfield Twp.); former gubernatorial candidate Abdul El-Sayed; state Sen. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit); state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit); and state Rep. Cynthia Johnson (D-Detroit).

“The supreme task is to organize and unite so that our anger becomes a transformational force,” said Stabenow.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to attend Sunday’s rally and march in Lansing.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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